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JBS touts improvements in E. coli testing at Alberta plant

Published on 22 July 2013

Few beef packing plants have been through the kind of turmoil that the former XL Foods packing facility in Brooks, Alberta has seen in the past year.

Previously known as XL Foods, the Brooks plant was shut down last fall after meat from the plant traced with E. coli sickened 18 people, and resulted in Canada's largest-ever beef recall. That led to a sizeable shift in the beef trade dynamic between the U.S. and Canada in the fourth quarter of 2012, as Canada became a net importer of beef.

It was found that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had issued seven corrective issue requests to the plant before shutting it down. Soon afterward, the XL Foods packing facility was sold to Brazil-based JBS, which pledged to improve the enfocement of food-testing procedures.

Now, after 60 inspections over six months, JBS says the plant has turned a corner.

The company opened the plant doors to the media and other public members last week, and the ramped-up E. coli testing has, according to JBS, changed for the better.

Willie Van Solkema, president for Canadian operations at JBS-USA, said there are four-times fewere positive E. coli samples showing up in tests. However, he did not say what the current E. coli incidence is.

The plant was seen by a Canadian health inspection critic, who was impressed with the new changes -- noting the increased openness under JBS.

"Every indication is that this is an improved plant that is doing a better job, both for the workers and for the quality of meat coming out of here," said Dr. David Swann.

But Swann told the Edmonton Journal that more inspection information should be given to the public, including injury rates, E. coli rates, throwaway rates and high-speed line infraction. end mark